Corey Lewandowski walked into the St. Regis Hotel Wednesday morning clutching a big can of Monster energy drink.
I thought, “Oh boy, here we go…” Mr. Lewandowski, President Trump’s first campaign manager, is an intense guy known for being combative. And he was about to appear at his first Monitor Breakfast. I flashed on the image of him strong-arming a female reporter during the campaign.
But I had nothing to worry about. Lewandowski could not have been more engaging with the 36 reporters in the room. When the hour was up, he stayed and chatted informally for an extra 25 minutes, handing out business cards to all comers.
Lewandowski, who remains a Trump confidant despite his firing in June 2016, even gave us a funny anecdote about the president and his love of driving.
“I shouldn’t tell the story – I’ll get in trouble,” Lewandowski began. All ears perked up.
Trump, pre-presidency, was driving his Rolls-Royce from New York to his golf club in New Jersey, and talking to Lewandowski on the phone.
“And guess what happened, right?” Lewandowski recalled. “When you’re in New York and you’re on your telephone, you’re driving your Rolls-Royce up to New Jersey, you get stopped. Right? And so I remember, he’s like: ‘Corey, I’m going to let you go. I just got pulled over.’ ”
He was responding to a question about the wealthy Trump’s understanding of everyday life. Getting pulled over – we’ve all been there. Lewandowski said that had just happened to him in New Hampshire. But not in a Rolls-Royce. As Mike Shear of The New York Times wrote, the former aide told the story with no hint of irony.
Lewandowski also talked about Trump treating campaign staff to dinner at an Iowa steakhouse. “The bill came and he took out his American Express card, which I thought was pretty cool,” he said.
Then Lewandowski brought us back to Trump’s more-familiar dining habits.
“When we would go to a McDonald’s or a fast-food place on the campaign trail, he would know what it would cost, because he would take out the cash and he would pay for it,” he said. Then “he’d get the change back.”
Most of our session centered on far weightier topics. In their coverage, many reporters focused on Lewandowski’s comment that he didn’t think the nondisclosure agreements signed by Trump aides, including himself, are enforceable. That sprang from a discussion of fired Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman’s explosive new book.
My own story focused on Trump and loyalty, and how Lewandowski and Ms. Newman embody the two types of “formers” – those still close to Trump and those in exile. Lewandowski also made headlineswhen he said that the strongest challenger against Trump in 2020 would be former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
C-SPAN’s video of our Aug. 15 breakfast can be viewed here.
I can see why Trump likes Lewandowski. He grew up in working-class Lowell, Mass., and he “gets” Trump supporters. Lewandowski also knows how to channel Trump, and regularly appears on stage with the president at Make America Great Again rallies.
In fact, I last chatted with Lewandowski in April at Andrews Air Force Base. We were both skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to fly on Air Force One for a rally in Michigan.
“I’d rather be doing this,” he told me. Then I said, “Hey, you should do a Monitor Breakfast.” He said he’d love to.